Things that go BOOM! and SHAKE!

It turns out there are volcanoes in Vanuatu. Aside from the part where the entire country is made up of volcanoes, I mean there are active volcanoes. According to one source I found,* of the 13 main islands, 9 of them have active volcanoes.

The Yasur Volcano on Tanna Island in Tafea Province seems to be the major fireworks. It has been creating some amount of explosions for at least 800 years and erupts often enough that there are tours.

With the volcanoes come earthquakes, at least that has been my limited understanding of geo-things so far. So, yes, there are earthquakes. There was one on Tuesday, August 10th that registered as a 7.3. Apparently it even generated a small tsunami (“only” 9′ waves) but didn’t do any lasting damage.** Since then, there have been 5 others which, I think, are being considered aftershocks. All of them were between 4.6 and 5.3 degrees of magnitude.^

I’m still looking for more information on the earthquakes, particularly the recent ones, and how frequent they are as well as more info on the volcanoes. This was just cool, so I thought I’d share.

I’ve never been in an earthquake or a tsunami. Here comes more adventures. This is the Ring of Fire, I do expect to feel some of the effects. Hopefully, the mild earth shaking ones, not the hot and burning kind.


To start at the beginning

We, that is Jason and I, are moving to Vanuatu. We have finally been accepted as Peace Corps volunteers and will be leaving for staging on September 10th. Jason will be teaching computer literacy to any and all ages and I will be doing something with public health. I’m not sure what that means, besides make people healthier. I guess I’ll discover that when I get there.

A little bit about our new home. Vanuatu is an archipelago nation about 1,000 miles east of Queensland, Australia, about 1,500 miles west of Fiji and about 2,000 miles north of New Zealand. It gained independence as the Republic of Vanuatu or Ripablik blong Vanuatu in 1980. It had previously been a joint colony of France and England. (I’m not clear on how that worked except that if you spoke French, you went with the French system and if you spoke English you went with the English system and the courts were a mess of both systems.) That legacy led to the primary languages of the country being English, French and Bislama, an English-based Pigeon which has recently become a true creole. If you want more linguistic geekery and language nonsense, don’t worry, I won’t be able to control myself.

The total area of the nation is 4,706 sq mi, or slightly smaller than Northern Ireland. This includes a lot of water, since there are 800 miles between the northern most and southern most islands. The total land area is closer to 1,800 sq miles (according to Wikipedia). There are 82 islands, though two of them are also claimed by New Caledonia. Of those 82, 65 are inhabited. Only 14 of the islands have a surface area of larger than 1,000 sq km (49 sq mi).

We are going to a very small island in the tropical/subtropical Pacific Ocean. On the up side, there aren’t a lot of poisonous things. The only ones I’ve read about so far are mollusks, and if a mollusk starts chasing me around, I think I have bigger problems.

As of 2009, there were about 243,304 people in the country. The city of Minneapolis has 386,691 alone and the total metro area has 3,269,814. This is going to be like going to college at school smaller than my high school, except on a national scale. The original people to settle Vanuatu appear to be the same people (or a related branch) that settled much of Polynesia. Since then, the French and English sent some settlers and missionaries, the more northern islands like Japan and the Philippines have left some people behind and other Pacific Islanders have mingled back in. We shouldn’t stand out too strongly, but I don’t expect to blend in either.

Other useful facts courtesy of Wikipedia: they drive on the right, the calling code is 678, and the flowerpot snake can be found only on the island of Efate and is often mistaken for an earthworm.

I expect this to be a record of the good, the bad, the culture shock and the humor of our time as Peace Corps Volunteers. Thank you for joining us in the ride and please leave lots of comments.